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Archive for the ‘Homegrown’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: How to Cook the Best Thanksgiving Turkey You’ll Ever Eat

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENIt’s November, and we all know what that means: The holidays will be here any day now! Last year we followed the Thanksgiving turkey recipe below with our own homegrown bird, and we’ll do it again this year because it’s that good: super moist, flavorful, and sure to please your guests. It takes some preparation, but in the end, it’s more than worth the effort!


This recipe will work for a 16- to 25-pound turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it, because brining it requires at least 12 hours. It’s even better if you can brine it longer. We’re doing ours a full 48 hours.


» 1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
» 6 to 8 thin slices of fresh ginger
» 2 Tbsp peppercorns
» 2 Tbsp allspice berries
» 2 Tbsp whole cloves
» 2 bay leaves
» 3/4 cup salt
» 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Combine the apple juice, ginger, and spices in a large sauce pan. Stir in the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes then allow to cool completely. We’ve designated a large water cooler, similar to the one pictured at left, for brining our bird.

Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets, and place the bird in the cooler, neck end down. Pour your cooled brining liquid over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged then add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put the lid on the cooler and leave it undisturbed for at least 12 and up to 48 hours. (Just make sure it’s staying cold.)

» olive oil
» 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
»  2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
» 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
» 1/4 lb butter (1 stick), cut into pats
» 2 cups chicken broth

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the bird from the brine, letting the brine drain out of the cavity. Don’t rinse the bird.

2. Coat a roasting pan with olive oil and place the bird in it, breast-side up.

3. Using your hands, separate the bird’s skin from the breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs into the meat.

4. Place the pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including on the legs. Pour the chicken broth over the bird.

5. Cover the bird with the pan lid or foil and put the pan in the oven.

6. Roast for two hours, basting every hour. Then remove the foil and allow the bird to brown, basting every 20 minutes.

7. Continue to roast the bird until the interior temperature reaches 165F. This can take an additional 1 to 2 hours, depending on whether the bird is stuffed. When taking the temperature, make sure the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and not touching bone.

You’ll end up with an incredibly moist, flavorful, and tender bird. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmMy friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. Instead of arts and crafts, my focus these days has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

HOMEGROWN Life: Growing Tender Celery

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENI’m fairly new at celery as this is only my third year growing it. I guess that’s because I’m not the biggest fan of it. It’s got its place but it’s just not a vegetable I use that often. Tom likes it better than I do so we figured we’d give it a try. Of course our last two years were filled with tough, stringy stalks because I was a beginning celery grower and didn’t know what the tricks were.


One of the tricks to growing tender celery is to give it a lot of water. Well, I live in California where it doesn’t rain throughout the summer. I’d feel terribly guilty if I had to dump a bunch of our precious water on the celery just to have tender stalks. One of the things I’ve noticed while growing celery is that it doesn’t come out with nice, thick, upright stalks that are all clustered together in the center. It’s more spreading and shrub like. But dumping water on it doesn’t seem to solve the problem of short stalks, does it? No, really, I’m asking because I haven’t tried dumping a bunch of water on celery.


There is another option though for producing tender celery. A farmer taught me about a trick they use for growing celery. Blanching the stalks with these rectangular cylinders that you slide over the plant. It keeps sunlight from reaching the stalks while forcing the plant to grow straight and bunched, which makes them thick and tender. You can buy these special cylinders or you can use half gallon milk cartons with the tops and bottoms cut off. We don’t drink commercial milk so that wasn’t really an option for us. Instead we used cardboard and the ubiquitous duct tape.


The process was pretty easy. Just cut 18″x8″ rectangular pieces of cardboard and then fold them in half. Fold each half in half again so that when it stands up you’ve got an 8″ tall cylinder.


Duct tape the seam closed. That’s it. Super simple.


The celery should be about as tall as the cylinder or a bit shorter. You just want the leaves popping out of the top. Grab the plant pulling all of the stalks together and slide the cardboard tube over them. Now just wait for the plant to be ready for harvest.


Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!


HOMEGROWN Life: Raising Romeo, a Love Story

Thursday, March 26th, 2015


HOMEGROWN LifeI love how just walking into a barn can be inspiring.

“What?!” you might respond. You may have to be a farmer to understand what I mean, but my guess is anyone who loves his or her job sees inspiration all around, every day.

My latest inspiration came to me in the form of a lamb. If you’ve been following the Bittersweet blog, you already know Romeo. If not, Romeo is a lamb who came to live with me on Valentine’s Day.


I had never raised a lamb in the house with me. Goat kids come every spring, and I always start them inside. I’m used to goat kids romping across the floor and chasing the cat in circles around the house. I’m used to lining up bottles on the kitchen counter for feedings. But I was not prepared for the complete joy I would experience with a lamb.


Brian, my farming mentor, told me, “It’s a whole different thing with raising lambs.” He wasn’t kidding. And that whole different thing has inspired me to write a children’s book about it. The difference is that lambs—or maybe just some lambs, but certainly Romeo—couldn’t be more of a joy to have around. Easy going, content, totally loveable, and constantly surprising. These are just some of the words I use to describe the experience.

The other way I describe it is a complete life lesson. As a farmer/amateur anthropologist, I am in the habit of observing behavior. It’s what makes us tick and defines our unique personalities. Within a few days of Romeo coming to live with me, I knew he was here to teach me how to teach him how to become a confident, well-adjusted creature. I saw I had the opportunity to guide him in finding his way in the world. “WHOA!” you might say! How is that fun?

All I can say is, it is. You should try raising lambs sometime. Beyond the bottles every six hours, beyond changing puppy pads in the playpen (I think I lost count at 150), beyond worrying about whether you’re getting it right, beyond laundering and replacing warm blankets so Romeo has something to snuggle up to since he doesn’t have his birth mom and I’m not always available, beyond all that comes the satisfaction of watching him grow into a healthy and confident little lamb.


I realized I had the opportunity to “make or break” this little guy, not unlike raising children. We hear a lot about different methods for raising animals. I have found that, no matter if you’re rearing these animals to end up knitted into a warming sweater or to provide a meal for your table, fostering their existence along the way makes a difference—the difference between that fiber becoming soft yarn or a tough-as-shoe-leather piece of meat on your table.

How does that translate into a children’s book? For me, easily. And thus the story of Romeo was born. The theme of the book is building confidence in a lamb by treating him humanely, letting him make mistakes along the way, watching him fall so he can get back up, and, ultimately, loving him just for him. It’s a tiny book, small enough to fit into a child’s palm. It’s a book for kids to carry around as a reminder they’ll always have a soft little lamb in their pocket. Maybe they can relate to that lamb. Maybe they know that lamb. Maybe that lamb is someone they want to become. It’s their story. They’ll know which version is theirs when they read it.


My hope is that moms and dads will love Romeo, too, and see him in their own little lambs. We get one chance to bring them along. We can be there to guide them, to pick them up and hold them when they fall, and ultimately to love the precious individuals they are. We’re their touchpoint, their harbor, their source of comfort. They’re here to teach us how to guide them. “That’s how lambs learn.”

I’ve come to realize farming is about so much more than just backbreaking work and muck. I’ve had some excellent teachers, with any number of legs, who remind me each day what a gift it is.


The book will be available on Bittersweet’s website as soon as it’s in print, and I’m also hoping to have it available online for e-readers and other devices. All proceeds will go toward maintaining the animals of Bittersweet Heritage Farm.


HOMEGROWN-life-dyanDyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.